Category: Health Psychology / Behavioral Medicine - Child

Symposium

Cognitive-Behavioral Play Intervention: A Pilot Study for Siblings of Children Diagnosed With Cancer

Saturday, November 18
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom B, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Child | Families | Treatment Development
Presentation Type: Symposium

Cognitive-behavioral play therapy is a developmentally-appropriate treatment modality that uses pretend play to teach cognitive-behavioral coping strategies to children that are not able to benefit from therapy modalities that require direct verbalization of the concerns. In particular, this is applicable for young children that do not yet have the verbal or abstract reasoning abilities to benefit from more traditional CBT or school-aged children when treatment content may be difficult to discuss directly. A three-session standardized cognitive-behavioral play intervention (CBPI) has been used to improve school anxiety in preschoolers. In pediatric populations, the CBPI has also been successful at improving nighttime anxiety in preschool-aged children with sleep difficulties.


When children are diagnosed with cancer, the entire family, including healthy siblings, has difficulty adjusting. Although there has been a more recent focus on treatment needs for families of children diagnosed with cancer, treatment for siblings is not standard. As up to 63% of children experience adjustment difficulties following a sibling’s diagnosis of cancer, there is a need for a brief intervention aimed at improving sibling adjustment during this critical time. To fill this need, the CBPI was adapted by aiming to improve adjustment and coping for siblings of children with cancer in the period immediately following the ill child’s diagnosis. This protocol was piloted with four children (ages 4-10). Adjustment and coping were measured before and after three 20-30 minute CBPI sessions. During the CBPI sessions, children played out standardized stories relevant to issues they may be experiencing after the sibling’s diagnosis, including isolation/disruption, anger/resentment/shame/guilt, and hopelessness/loss of control. The play facilitator modeled and reinforced positive self-statements and a problem-solving approach. With positive support from this pilot study, this protocol could be adapted for siblings of children diagnosed with other chronic illnesses as social support in these cases may also be compromised due to the parental attention needed to care for the ill child. 

Karla Fehr

Assistant Professor
Southern Illinois University

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